Normalizing the Popular Vote

It's happening again. You know what I mean- the bold predictions that Hillary Clinton will in the end come out on top of the popular vote, along with analyses that states she will not. As much as I respect Chris Bowers and his analysis at the latter link- this falls into what we know is a false narrative.There is no such thing as the "popular vote" as a measure of support for the Democratic nomination.

For those who cannot bring themselves to agree with that observation above the fold, this diary is for you.

The 14 states which have held caucuses have done so in good faith- under the assumption that there is no inherent weight given to the type of contest- open or closed, primary or caucus and accordingly the pledged delegate count is an effective means of normalizing between the type of contest. One could argue that one type of contest is superior to another... I don't believe any of these arguments are particularly accurate. If the question is whether the candidate can organize strength among party activists and voters willing to get deeply involved with the process, caucuses are superior. If the Democratic nomination is predicated upon palatability within the party, a closed primary may be best. If we want general election viability only, perhaps we would prefer a nationwide open primary? If we want to assess "popular support" we cannot take all these different varieties of contest and tally up their raw counts between the states. The pledged delegate count would, in fact, be a more accurate portrayal of that sentiment.

If, on the other hand, we require numbers that reflect the sheer number of voters who influence this election, let's consider another measure. What would the caucuses have looked like if they were primaries- and how would they have influenced the "popular vote?"

Over the course of the campaign, the sum of the votes cast for Obama and Clinton in primaries average 70% of the 2004 vote for John Kerry in the general election. This ratio varies substantially based on how significantly the race in question (a standard deviation of 20%). Turning out a higher number of voters compared to the Kerry numbers does not appear to preferentially help either candidate. If there is a better predictor of primary turnout out there at this point I would be interested in hearing about it. For the meantime- if the 14 states that held caucuses instead turned out voters at the mean percentage of Kerry in 2004, where would the race be?

StateObamaClintonmargin2004 Kerryfrac04proj turnoutObamaClinton

This is the calculation with the original margin of victory. The number at the bottom right indicates Obama's advantage with those assumptions, yielding roughly a 1.5 million vote advantage over Clinton in these states. Clinton supporters would (and should) protest that the margin of victory is unlikely to be the same with the states holding primaries. For that purpose, let's take the difference between the Texas primary and caucus (8%) and subtract that, across the board, from Obama's support. This is a fairly crude way of adjusting the results, but is quite a friendly reduction for Clinton. In the case where we have a regional analogue, bringing Obama down to 60% in Minnesota is fairly comparable to his advantage in Wisconsin. We will know, perhaps, on the 20th whether Oregon matches up to Washington.

StateObamaClintonmargin2004 Kerryfrac04proj turnoutObamaClinton

Even under this scenario, Obama leads by a 700000 vote margin, meaning that the RealClearPolitics popular vote tally (at about 280000) considerably underestimates Obama's support. It would take a rather drastic reduction in Obama's support in these states to change that story. If one uses the same model on the remaining primaries, giving Clinton 2/3 of the votes in West Virginia and Kentucky and splitting Oregon, Montana and South Dakota 50/50 (which, on the whole, is vairly absurd) then Clinton makes up 240123 votes- a bit more than half of what is being unreasonably excluded from Obama's totals, leaving Puerto Rico to make up the difference.

The only reason to cite popular vote totals as they are tallied by RCP, outside of giving people a vague notion of the turnout and support in select large states, is to exclude the caucus states from consideration of the nominee. When one wishes to assess which candidate has popular sentiment in favor of the nomination, Barack Obama has an insurmountable lead. You can include the contest in Florida and it will not change that conclusion. You can include Michigan without crediting Obama with uncommitteds, and it will not change the result.

You cannot exclude 14 states and consider your math to be "popular" or "democratic."

Tags: 2008 Primaries, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, popular vote (all tags)



So, is this diary what they mean...

...when they talk about mental masturbation?

I mean, really? What in the hell does this diary have to do with reality?

Oh, and another thing...there's this great thing called a "paragraph!" Check it out!

by bobswern 2008-05-11 09:02PM | 0 recs
Re: So, is this diary what they mean...

What a rebuttal!

by Mandoliniment 2008-05-11 09:03PM | 0 recs
Re: So, is this diary what they mean...
ah the trials of autoformatting... The above has a great deal more to do with "reality" than the "popular vote" spin that has been pushed by the Clinton campaign in the recent past. The reality is that you cannot ignore any contest in the primary simply because you dislike its format or because you are unsuccessful with it.
by Casuist 2008-05-11 09:14PM | 0 recs
Re: So, is this diary what they mean...

I'm astounded by your well thought-out response here, Bob. Not one bit of ad hominem, you responded totally on the merits of the issues, and were a credit to Clinton supporters everywhere.

by ragekage 2008-05-11 09:26PM | 0 recs

by bobswern 2008-05-11 10:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Yawnnnn.....n/t


by interestedbystander 2008-05-12 02:08AM | 0 recs
Re: So, is this diary what they mean...

Yes I cannot imagine what this post has to do with My Direct Democracy.   More posts tying support of Hillary Clinton to Mother's Day please!

by Tumult 2008-05-12 04:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

So now elections have a fudge factor in them?

Team Obama never ceases to amaze me.

by DTaylor 2008-05-11 09:04PM | 0 recs
oh don't get me wrong...
I'm willing to discard the notion of the "popular vote" altogether as a nonsensical metric in the primary system. This presentation is for those who don't want to let it go... and the analysis above is certainly more legitimate than using a measure which throws out 14 states.
by Casuist 2008-05-11 09:08PM | 0 recs
Re: oh don't get me wrong...

Popular vote has ALWAYS been the most democratic metric.

Its an important metric and should be a MAJOR factor in the convention.

by DTaylor 2008-05-11 09:11PM | 0 recs
if so...
then the numbers above must be kept in mind, unless one wishes to "disenfranchise" 14 states.
by Casuist 2008-05-11 09:16PM | 0 recs
Re: if so...

Here's a thought: caucuses favor Obama supporters.  Which states held both a caucus and a primary?  Texas and Washington.  HRC won Texas' primary (in which many more people participated), and lost the caucus.  Obama won Washington's caucus by a huge percentage.  He won the primary (in which many more people participated) by a much smaller margin, about three percentage points.  Using vote totals from the primary, with its higher participation, HRC gains about 40,000 votes.

So your attempt to "normalize" the caucus states by speculating about the popular vote margin based on undemocratic and poorly attended caucuses is false and misleading.  When more people can participate in an election, the results are different, because DIFFERENT people can and will participate in a primary, with its promise of a single, private ballot, early voting and open, all-day voting hours than will participate in a caucus where they are subject to intimidation, where they may be called to stand for long periods of time, where their participation is limited to a distinct two hour window that many people cannot make.

Y'all must be desperate if you're going here, again.  

by mgee 2008-05-12 05:21AM | 0 recs

is accounted for in the calculation above, a fact you seem desperate to ignore, since you bring up additionally a meaningless Washington vote.

Can you- with a straight face, suggest that Obama's popular vote lead would not, in fact, be larger if these states had instead be these primaries you cling to so dearly?

...and again, if you're convinced Washington is ambivalent, I suggest you keep an eye on Oregon and we will see who is more credible on that score.

by Casuist 2008-05-12 07:11AM | 0 recs
Re: oh don't get me wrong...

Then how do you propose we treat the caucus states who ran their contests with the implication they were following the rules, and doing things correctly?

by ragekage 2008-05-11 09:27PM | 0 recs
Re: oh don't get me wrong...

then how do you measure caucuses? or do those not count?

by shef 2008-05-11 09:57PM | 0 recs

The race for the Democratic nomination is a race for delegates. It has been a delegate race from the very beginning. To try to change the rules now would be grossly unfair, because if the popular vote was the metric, Obama would have run his campaign differently. He ran his campaign with the goal of getting the most delegates, and he succeeded.

Saying that the popular vote should determine the winner now is like a football team that's just lost a game 31-12 saying that they should win after all because they kicked more field goals than their opponents.

by Angry White Democrat 2008-05-11 10:43PM | 0 recs
Popular vote doesn't have importance in any state.

Because of Delegates being apportioned by district, popular vote impact is diluted even in popular vote states.  The Obama campaign was very aware of the breaking point for delegate awards at the district level.  And the way they campaigned reflected this.  Because a 55% to 45% split could get equal number of delegates (and in some cases a bigger margin would have the same result) after you knew you were past the breaking point, there was no point in "running up" the popular vote.  The Obama campaign was very targeted in the way it campaigned because of these breakdowns.  Which is why he went to places "he would never be able to win"  because getting a small amount of the vote could result in getting 25% or 33% of the delegates.

And this is one of the reasons why taking primary elections to have anything to do with the general election is foolish.  It is a completely diffrent system.  And the campaign will be completely diffrent for it.

The Obama campaign was very skillful, and played the rules to its advantage.  The Clinton campaign was incompetent on nearly every level, and acted like they had no understanding of the rules, or how to win by them.  So now after the fact, they want the rules changed.

There was a nice article on how the Obama campaign was very aware of the odd delegate districts, because those were the ones it was easier to get an extra delegate out of without running up the popular vote.  So even in states that Clinton supporters are considering "popular vote" states, they really wern't as much as you think.  Which is why it is untrue to consider popular vote totals as indicative of anything in this primary, other than the level of Clinton incompetence.

by Tumult 2008-05-12 05:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

BUT THE CAUCUS STATES WERE NOT ABOUT TURNING OUT THE POPULAR VOTE- AND TO PRETEND THEY ARE THE SAME AS PRIMARIES IS PATENTLY DISHONEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
by Bob Beard 2008-05-11 09:15PM | 0 recs
to pretend...
...that the caucus states are worth any more or less than a primary state defies party rules, and is also "patently dishonest." If you want to talk about "popular support" you need to take into account the biases of your metric. the tally being used by the Clinton campaign is not an objective measure of popular support, as it penalizes states for an entirely valid nomination format. If the states were to know they would be discounted, they would hold primaries.
by Casuist 2008-05-11 09:19PM | 0 recs
Re: to pretend...

Choosing a party nominee is not about democracy as is the general election. Therefore state parties can choose a very democratic system such as a state run primary or they can do an internal party process such as caucuses. We know from TX and Washington State which held both primaries and caucuses. In both states Obama did significantly better in the caucus while Clinton won the TX primary and lost the WA primary by 2 points. Caucuses automatically disenfranchise whole classes of voters who are unable to participate in a contest where they are required to physically be in a room within a narrow one to two hour window of time. Also with caucus participation of 2% considered high turnout in many caucus states, these contests can hardly be considered the best indication of how a general election is won. Caucuses do give party insiders and activists greater influence in deciding the nominee.

The actual DNC rules provide that superdelegates vote for the nominee they think would be best by whatever standard they choose. There is no command that supers follow either the popular vote or the delegate lead. Obama had put forth a strong but untrue narrative that supers MUST follow the will of the people. First he claimed "the popular vote" however after the Texas Caucus overturned the results of the popular vote in their Primary, Obama changed his mantra to "whomever has the lead in pledged delegates."

There is no official weight given to either caucuses or primaries. However the term popular vote simply refers to counting the total number of people who showed up to vote and not about tweaking those numbers by arcane primary math or filtering the actual turnout with adjustments from party rules or sanctions.

Yes in terms of delegates FL and MI did not count when those contests were held. However when figuring the popular vote, the total raw number of people who turned out to vote they do indeed count. To not count them is to use delegate math not popular vote.

Also state parties made the choice as to whether or not they held a contest that encouraged broad participation from all eligible Democratic voters such as a primary or to hold a contest that is weighted towards insiders and activists with very low participation such as a caucus. As such caucus state parties decided they they wanted greater insider sway over choosing the pledged delegates. However by doing so they would also be choosing to have low participation and therefore make a very small contribution to the primaries popular vote. Ironically by weighting insider influence heavily they made the popular vote influence weaker.

Obama was the first person to suggest that supers must consider the popular vote whereas Clinton suggested that the rules state they should use their best judgement.

When the contest is over there will be several metrics to consider. One very compelling measure will be the total number of voters nationally who came out of their homes and cast a vote for Obama and those who came out and cast a vote for Clinton.

Please don't whine and play the victim card because some states choose caucus contest that predictably lead to embarrassingly low turnout. That is unless the Obama supporters care to discuss the shortcomings of caucuses when holding elections.....

by Jon Winkleman 2008-05-12 12:01AM | 0 recs
Re: to pretend...
We know from TX and Washington State which held both primaries and caucuses. In both states Obama did significantly better in the caucus while Clinton won the TX primary and lost the WA primary by 2 points.
Texas is addressed in the diary and the 8% difference treated therein. The Washington primary was a predominantly mail-in straw poll nonrepresentative of the popular sentiment, as may be more accurately judged by the caucus or by the in-state polling.
Caucuses automatically disenfranchise whole classes of voters who are unable to participate in a contest where they are required to physically be in a room within a narrow one to two hour window of time.
False, as many caucuses make allowances for filing a preference and then leaving the caucus site or else facilitating a vote by proxy.
The actual DNC rules provide that superdelegates vote for the nominee they think would be best by whatever standard they choose. There is no command that supers follow either the popular vote or the delegate lead. Obama had put forth a strong but untrue narrative that supers MUST follow the will of the people.
Such sentiment has never been about the rules. No one, supporting Obama or otherwise, has suggested that the superdelegates are legally bound to vote with the pledged count. However, overturning the "will of the voters" would be against the party's interests barring an "October surprise." If you want to tell the majority of the Democratic electorate they are not relevant to the decision, please leave the party first- and might I suggest you not send that message to a majority that even more substantially represents the future of the party (the youth vote).
First he claimed "the popular vote" however after the Texas Caucus overturned the results of the popular vote in their Primary, Obama changed his mantra to "whomever has the lead in pledged delegates."
You've got this mixed up. The Obama campaign has never claimed the popular vote as the end-all of the nomination process, whereas Clinton's criteria has shifted with whatever measure is most appealing. Regardless, Obama will finish with majorities of the popular vote, pledged delegates and superdelegates, and presently holds pluralities in all three.
There is no official weight given to either caucuses or primaries. However the term popular vote simply refers to counting the total number of people who showed up to vote and not about tweaking those numbers by arcane primary math or filtering the actual turnout with adjustments from party rules or sanctions. Yes in terms of delegates FL and MI did not count when those contests were held. However when figuring the popular vote, the total raw number of people who turned out to vote they do indeed count. To not count them is to use delegate math not popular vote.
Oh bullshit. Four states don't even keep a tally of raw turnout for the caucuses as it is not a relevant statistic... and whether or not there is an "official weighting" the "popular vote" as you define it is inherently weighted. Turnout varies between open and closed primaries and yet you seem unconcerned with removing that bias. Counting votes from contests which the voters knew were explicitly illegitimate is not "democratic" regardless, I'm willing to concede the Florida vote and even the Michigan vote for the sake of argument, if likewise you are willing to "enfranchise" the caucus states which, under your metric, would be underweighed... indeed they would be valued at approximately half if not less of their population and past support of the Democratic Party.
Please don't whine and play the victim card because some states choose caucus contest that predictably lead to embarrassingly low turnout. That is unless the Obama supporters care to discuss the shortcomings of caucuses when holding elections.....
"Whining" is choosing an artificial criterion by which your loss is somewhat less dramatic AFTER the contests in question have already taken place. Or perhaps you could show us where Clinton said the popular vote should determine the nominee before Iowa... or where she said the caucus contests should matter less significantly... or where she claimed the delegate number was 2200 rather than 2000 (where we have direct evidence to the contrary).
by Casuist 2008-05-12 12:42AM | 0 recs
Re: to pretend...

Get out of here with your well-reasoned logic ;)

by interestedbystander 2008-05-12 02:10AM | 0 recs
Re: to pretend...

Popular vote does not matter even in "popular vote" states.  Because of district apportionment of delegates to some extent popular vote does not matter.  So I am not sure how much more "honest" you can consider noncaucus states.

Obama is winning nonsuper delegates by the rules.  And campaigned in a way to win by those rules, not by the popular vote.

It is true the Obama campaign tried to make the arguement that popular vote should impact superdelegate decisions.   And it is also true that Superdelegates can go by whatever metric they choose or none at all.

But if we were going to use diffrent rules to decide the nomination, Obama's campaign would have been vastly diffrent. I am sure Clinton's campaign would have still been incompetent.

And Presidents arn't elected by popular vote even in the general election.

And I am not sure how it is whining and playing the victim to ask people to play by established rules, rather than whatever crazy notion Clinton has put forward today. And the shortcomings of everything to do with the primary process or the electoral college don't matter when those are the rules you have accpeted from the start.  You change rules at the beginning not at the end.  Shortcomings have nothing to do with it.

Do caucuses undermine individual voters? Yes they do.

Does district apportionment of delegaes undermine individual voters? Yes it does.

Is the entire primary process flawed when it comes down to the individual voter?  Yes it is.

Should the entire system change? Yes it should.

Should any of the above have an impact on the Clinton-Obama race? No it shouldn't have any impact, ex post facto.

by Tumult 2008-05-12 05:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Pardon my frankness - but this is pure bullshit.

First, there ain't no way to "normalize" the vote as you say, but what you suggest is anything but "normal".
Second, Washington state and Texas had primaries and caucuses. In Washington, Clinton came very close during a poor month for her.  In Texas, she won the primary.  This is strong evidence that caucuses overstated Obama's support.
Third, caucuses are far from democratic and historically underrepresent working people, mothers with young children, and the poor elderly.

No, the caucuses results are the caucus results.

by johnnygunn 2008-05-11 09:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Barack Obama          21,768      67.56%   
Hillary Clinton          10,038      31.15%   

Primary -
Barack Obama          354,112      51.17%   
Hillary Clinton          315,744     45.63%   

*The Washington primary was nonbinding.

Let's see -
Twenty times the people participated in the Washington primary than in the caucuses even though the primary meant nothing - i.e. a pure beauty contest.  Obama's margin in the caucus was 36% - in the primary 5.5%.  Normalize that!

by johnnygunn 2008-05-11 09:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

No problem. Obama supporters skipped a non-binding primary and focused on the caucus they knew to be the real place to focus their energy.

The point is, Clinton supporters trying to make this ridiculous popular vote claim is just as disingenuous as you claim this is. Sorry, buddy- she doesn't have any metrics working for her.

by ragekage 2008-05-11 09:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Right - all 20,000 of them.
If Obama supporters skipped the primary, what were 350 some thousand people doing?

Again, you have the responsibility to show that the primary - albeit nonbinding - attracted fewer Obama supporters.  It's clear that they didn't boycott it.  Perhaps Clinton supporters didn't show up because it was nonbinding and there was a union rally at the Boeing plant.  Or the Cherry Festival in Yakima.

Given that you have no metrics other than what you can pull out of you - - hat - - one must assume that  both primary and caucus reflect Washington opinion at the time they took place.  The former of a broad cross-section of the population - the latter of a narrower segment of the politically active.

by johnnygunn 2008-05-11 09:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Aha. By your logic, then, Obama got zero votes out of Michigan, and he sure as hell wouldn't have gotten any more out of Florida, no matter what. Same with Hillary.

This is an excellent look at the trouble with discounting the caucus states. Clinton supporters seem to be especially keen to do so because it suits them politically. If you want to take issue of Washington state, fine- then what about the rest of them? Still too inconvenient to count for you?

by ragekage 2008-05-11 09:43PM | 0 recs
bullshit numbers, thanks...

namely you're comparing the state DELEGATE count with the vote tally. Washington does not keep raw popular turnout for the caucus.

by Casuist 2008-05-11 09:33PM | 0 recs
Re: And - -
And Dems worry about voting irregularities in Florida and Ohio.
Great - no record!
by johnnygunn 2008-05-11 09:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Reading your numbers, I see that Barack obama has a margin of 11,730 votes in the Washington caucus... and a margin of more than 39,000 votes in the Washington primary (though one's that smaller in percentages).

So if we took that as an example for all the caucuses, he'd still benefit more from primaries where the popular vote is concerned, because even with smaller percentages of victory, those percentages would signify a larger number of votes.

(Same as Clinton's 1% victories which, because they happened in primaries sometimes signify a larger number of votes than Obama's 15% victories in caucuses).

by Aris Katsaris 2008-05-12 02:52AM | 0 recs
likewise, pardon

but stop behaving as if a Washington state "primary" that everyone in the state knew had no relevance whatsoever has any meaning in assessing the sentiment of that state. That is also "pure bullshit."

The Texas issue is treated above, as I clearly point out in subtracting the Texas 8% from Obama's caucus margins.

The take home message is that if the "popular vote" as you define it were a relevant metric, no state would hold a caucus, and if you insist of using that tally you are substantially underestimating Obama's support.

The caucuses measure something altogether different than the primary, and the better ones take into account those who cannot attend, including many of those mentioned above (Washington and Minnesota included).

As I said above, I'm all for throwing out any measure that underweights any state... but you can't claim that the "popular vote" reflects any sort of reality without acknowledging that you are inherently throwing out the caucuses, and that is not fair to the voters of those states.

by Casuist 2008-05-11 09:26PM | 0 recs
Re: likewise, pardon

You have so many assumptions in your "analysis" that go completely unstated.

In order for you to assume that people in primaries would vote the same way that people in caucuses did you have to show that they came from the same population.  They don't.  Texas and Washington prove that.  And, amigo, I think that 600,000 people in Washington have a lot more to say than 30,000 - even if their votes were meaningless.

With the exception of Utah - the LEAST Democratic state in the union - Obama lost every Dem primary in the West - winning only caucuses.  The onus is on you to prove that people would have voted in similar ways had their have been primaries rather than caucuses.  You don't even begin to.

by johnnygunn 2008-05-11 09:33PM | 0 recs

you're using the delegate counts for the Washington caucus rather than the turnout- which was massive (having family who took part in the unprecedented numbers I feel qualified to say), of all kinds and was quite overwhelmingly in favor of Obama. He would have won the state quite easily regardless of format, and a predominantly mail-in primary that everyone knew to be nonbinding is not valid evidence to the contrary. Texas is the only example of a primary and caucus in a single state in which both the campaigns and the people were invested in such a way as to test the difference in support...

Docking Obama 8% as a result of the Texas result is a generous assumption for Clinton. Giving her 60% of the Nevada and New Mexico votes is unreasonable, along with nearly half of Wyoming and North Dakota and Maine none of which fits particularly well with her typical constituencies.

The assumptions are plainly stated in the diary and I acknowledge the error margins involved with such an analysis. The turnout alone has a 20% standard deviation, and one can play games with that to fluctuate the numbers as one sees fit. It doesn't change the fact that using the popular vote as Clinton does or the tally from RCP substantially understates Obama's support, no matter what you think of the validity of caucuses  and indeed giving Clinton every feasible break.

Obama lost every Dem primary in the West - winning only caucuses.  The onus is on you to prove that people would have voted in similar ways had their have been primaries rather than caucuses.  You don't even begin to.

Cute... New Mexico and Nevada were close contests and California varied significantly by region, the bay area and Northern California being more favorable to Obama... as stated by others elsewhere recently, there's ample evidence that much of Clinton's margin of victory out here was due to early voting before the support closed.

By "every primary in the west" you mean California  and Arizona to the exclusion of Utah, and I call bullshit to that. Let's take Oregon as a measure, hmmmm? and I expect you'll find Oregon matched better to Washington under the assumptions made in the diary than it does to Arizona.  

Caucuses make allowance for voters who cannot remain for the whole process. The onus is on YOU to demonstrate that the difference in support would be enough to invalidate my overall point. The only evidence you have for that purpose is Texas... and as pointed out, that 8% gift doesn't cut it.

by Casuist 2008-05-11 10:40PM | 0 recs
Re: likewise, pardon

Finally you're beginning to understand - popular vote can't be used as a metric, because nobody can agree on what it is.  Good job it is and always has been a delegate race.

by interestedbystander 2008-05-12 02:13AM | 0 recs
Re: likewise, pardon

"And, amigo, I think that 600,000 people in Washington have a lot more to say than 30,000 - even if their votes were meaningless."

Well, if you're using the "popular vote" idea, as an Obama supporter I certainly do hope you consider Washington's primary rather than caucus -- as Obama has three times the margin of difference in votes there than in the caususes.

Hell, let's penalize Obama a 10% in every single caucus and then multiply both candidate's numbers with the expected difference between caucus/primary turnouts -- it'd still be favourable for him where the popular-vote is concerned.

by Aris Katsaris 2008-05-12 03:03AM | 0 recs

what are you trying to say?

by nikkid 2008-05-11 09:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Personally, I could give a rat's ass.
Clinton is going to lose the nomination -
And if Obama supporters continue on the route of Lamontification -
Then Obama will win about as many states as Dukakis did.

Remember, there are no caucuses in November.

by johnnygunn 2008-05-11 09:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Which is why you don't campaign in the same way.

There are no caucuses in November, at the same time popular vote does not determine the November election.  And I guess we are better off with the campaign that can win by the rules, because there is no way that Clinton would be able to get the Supreme Court to overturn the general election rules.

by Tumult 2008-05-12 06:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

I'd be sympathetic to the idea that (as one poster put it) the "popular vote has ALWAYS been the most democratic metric", if the Clinton campaign hadn't committed itself so fully to the idea that a win by superdelegates would be completely legitimate (whatever set of circumstances both candidates brought to the convention).

If we're going to take off our game hats and talk to each other like real people, that's great.  But c'mon already!  Which Clinton supporter is going to be the first to admit that using these metrics as if they were componants in some sort of moral calculator is now highly dubious, because the Clinton campaign is on record today as saying that they'd accept a superdelegate win whatever the circumstances.

If Clinton arrives at the convention down 500 pledged delegates, loses the PV by two million votes, there are no other outstanding issues, and she can get 501 officials and functionaries to vote for her, that, in her eyes, is a legitimate win.  If she makes up the margin by poaching pledged delegates, that's also legitimate.

None of the above tactics has anything to do with democracy.  If she wasn't so deeply committed to this sort of victory, btw, I'd give her arguments about the PV a real hearing.  Since she is, though, what's the point?

You don't see the irony here?  She's not making a moral argument for the public at large.  Her claim is that this argument about the PV should be considered by fewer than 800 party functionaries whom, together, have more influence on the process than the states of California, New York, and Illinois combined.  

And if she doesn't win the PV, but just says, "Hey, I'm the better candidate", and the superdelegates go along, game over.

Spare me.  The PV matters or it doesn't.  It can't simply matter if the figures add up to the outcome she likes, using the standards she likes, and then with the sole intent of convincing authorities whose votes aren't bound by any sort of accountable process at all (or, if this happens, and you really believe in "the most democratic metric", you should call it for what it is--a tainted win).

by IncognitoErgoSum 2008-05-11 09:56PM | 0 recs
Thank You

for this diary.

You obviously put a lot of work into it.

Very informative.

by shef 2008-05-11 09:59PM | 0 recs
thanks for the comments
and the support. I'd been building up the spreadsheet for a while as a thought exercise and the latest round of spin brought me to share it.
by Casuist 2008-05-11 10:24PM | 0 recs
Re: thanks for the comments

I'm glad you did.

The metric of a popular vote is flawed on many levels. And I'm getting tired of hearing people claim that not seating FL and MI is undemocratic then turn around and "disenfranchise" caucus states.

by shef 2008-05-11 10:27PM | 0 recs
Re: thanks for the comments

Or what about the argument that not seating MI would be undemocratic, and so the solution is to seat MI as/is, even though Obama supporters didn't have a candidate they could vote for (if the politician who screws up is someone we don't like then the voters are screwed).

Can understand why people make these arguments.  That some take them seriously, though, is friggin' unbelievable.

by IncognitoErgoSum 2008-05-11 10:32PM | 0 recs
I recommended this.
Everybody should read it. Sadly, I think few will.
It's a big pain in the ass to Clinton supporters.
They're a fickle bunch. They want the popular vote to say who wins. They want the delegate count to say who wins. They want superdelegates to say who wins. Whatever or whoever helps her cause the most right then and there, well, that's what or who they want to say who wins.
These people ahve no intellectual honesty.
I'm not even any kind of fan of Obama; I think he'd be all right, but nothing all that great. But Clinton and her campaign and a lot of her supporters--not all--are just so sleazy and desperate and untrustworthy that I'm kind of on Obama's side just by default.
by Mumphrey 2008-05-11 10:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Wow, this is a great diary.  The number crunching you've done only seems to underscore that there's really no reasonable way to come up with a 'cumulative popular vote' number when you've got 60 different contests each with different (and often complicated) rules for participation and delegate allocation.

And while some have obviously taken issue with your methodology, it's far better than assuming that you can simply add a vote from a caucus state to a vote from a primary state next door with completely different rules regarding participation in the two states and come up with 'two votes'.  At least you're attempting to express the caucus and primary votes in 'like terms'.

It really is just basic math.  Many Clinton supporters on this site seem to be stunned by basic delegate arithmetic, so I don't expect most to understand that one simply cannot express the sum of two 'unlike terms' by pretending that the terms are the same.  In other words, the sum of one North Dakota caucus vote plus one Massachusetts Primary vote isn't two votes because those votes don't represent the same thing (1x + 1y != 2). The sum can only be expressed as 'one North Dakota caucus vote and one Massachusetts Primary vote'.

In any case, thanks for this diary.  You've nailed the bottom line -- this popular vote nonsense effectively nullifies the votes in all of the caucus states.

by chinapaulo 2008-05-12 12:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Thanks! I'd be more than satisfied with simply holding the different varieties of primary contests separate and treating them each in turn. Take the open primaries and sum them up. Take the closed primaries and sum them up. Do the same with the caucuses, splitting them up in turn, and then take into consideration how much of the country is represented by each system. It's not easy, but it's far more honest than summing up apples and oranges as if they were the same species, as you say.

In the end, I'd like to see the party come up with a more streamlined and nationally consistent primary system... and to do away with the superdelegates (with the possible exception of "elected" superdelegates)... but I think even such a revised system might have a place for the caucuses and their measure of ground and activist support.

by Casuist 2008-05-12 12:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Idiotic post which is methodologically flawed. Primarily does not take into account the demographic differences between caucus goers and the general population. Democratic or otherwise.

by hypopg 2008-05-12 08:55AM | 0 recs
thank you for the lack of substantive rebuttal
If you think the difference in demographics would make up a greater than 8% difference I'd be happy to see your thorough analysis.
by Casuist 2008-05-12 09:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

Normalizing the popular vote is complete guess work. A statistician on the DailyKos (Obama supporter) actually did a regression analysis and concluded that Obama does 12.5 percent better in caucuses than primaries. Thus, according to his calculations, Clinton wins a state primary if she won 37.5 percent or more of the caucus vote.

We also have data from Washington State and Texas. While true that the Washington state primary was merely a beauty contest, why Clinton supporters would be more willing to vote in a beauty contest than Obama is unclear. Also, according to the secretary of state, thousands of ballots were spoiled because many people forgot to sign the pledge on the ballot, the majority of those people probaby being Clinton supporters. The Washington state results is actually quite in line with the regression analysis. (Clinton did 15 percent better in the primary than caucus).

Texas is also not a good indicator because the act of going to a primary increases the chance that you will go to the caucus. Once a voter commits to go to the polls to vote in a primary, he or she is more likely to stay or comeback for the caucus. Since Clinton voters need more enticement to go to the caucuses, the same day primary made Clinton perform better in the caucus than if there had been no same day primary. I would argue that had Texas only had a caucus, Obama would have received at least 60 percent of the vote.

by Zzyzzy 2008-05-12 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Normalizing the Popular Vote

I'd be happy to look at any such data if you have a link... but I don't find a 12.5 margin in each state particularly credible the way that I adjust above - e.g. it results in a Wyoming victory for Clinton where there's little evidence she's ever had the regional support to warrant such a result. As I stated in the diary- the 8% adjustment fits reasonably well matching Minnesota with Wisconsin, a comparable demographic... whereas dropping his support a greater extent would be regionally inconsistent.

Stop trying to use the Washington primary. The results are not consistent with the caucus or polling of the state heading into the primary. When you wonder why a primary that doesn't count should trend towards one candidate or another, you're simply working with bad data which ensures you're going to make little sense of it. The Texas caucus is the only reference point for contrasting formats that both provided incentive for involvement.

Part of the problem is we're mixing relatively contested and uncontested caucus states. Much of the difference in this analysis comes from Washington, Minnesota, Colorado and Kansas (due to the huge margin of victory). Clinton never contested Kansas and that was reflected in the result. She did not make any dramatic effort in MN, and as I stated previously it matches up with Wisconsin.

Clinton DID contest Washington and Colorado, but could not make up the margin. If we judge the "caucus effect" by an average of other states based on demographics, the results will be skewed towards the uncontested states, while those that Clinton considered important hold little margine for improvement.

There's valid gripes to be made with the methodology... but I think in the end there's ample cause to say the popular vote tally underestimates Obama's support due to exclusion of the caucuses. As a matter of fact, one would NEED that 12.5% reduction across the board (even in states Obama lost already) in order for the above calculation to approach the caucus tally as RCP has it right now.

If you all don't agree with Washington- wait and watch Oregon.

by Casuist 2008-05-12 04:45PM | 0 recs


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